A new Emerson College poll released on Tuesday shows that Governor Gavin Newsom is barely hanging onto a majority against the recall 48% to 46%.
However, among the candidates hoping to replace him, one stands out and has quickly grown in strength since last month, and with the new poll, has shown that his popularity wasn’t just a fluke. National talk radio host Larry Elder has quickly shot up in popularity, from garnering 16% in mid-July in the first poll he was listed in, to 18% in late July, to now 23% in early August. Commutatively, he now has as much support as the next 4 candidates – 2018 Gubernatorial candidate John Cox, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), former Dan Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and former Olympian and reality show celebrity Caitlyn Jenner – combined.
In correlation with Elder’s gains, support among Latinos and whites for the recall have shot up, showing that Elder has now moved out from his conservative base and is attracting support from more and more different demographics.
“He’s the only candidate to have made a huge gain like this at a time where Latinos are now generally in favor of the recall and white voters are about 50-50,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz to the Globe on Tuesday. “His notoriety is also helping things, as are his generally conservative views, and to some voters, his race.”
And that’s where a noticeable missing piece of support comes in. While all the other major recall candidates enjoy a decent amount of white support, black support for Elder has been limited to black Republicans in the state.
While it’s not an insignificant amount overall, it only comes out to about 5% of all African-Americans in the state, with 73% voting Democratic. Recent Census data show that just under 6% of the state is black, with 2.3 million in the state. Even pared down by voting age and likelihood to vote, the black vote is still very significant in the state, with Newsom now banking on the 57% of black voters being in favor of keeping him in office.
Elder, meanwhile, has the highest percentage of Democrats unwilling to vote for him, with 98% surveyed in late July not wanting to, a figure that includes the 73% of all African-American voters in the state.
During the Globe’s inquiry, a black Democratic organization in San Francisco even called Elder an “Uncle Tom.”
While most other recall candidates are still going after more traditional groups, as well as those on the fence and dissatisfied Democrats, Elder has a more unique challenge that would help solidify his position as the candidate to beat: enticing back African-American voters who have long been Democratic voters.
“Getting African-Americans to vote Republican is like herding cats,” explained Michael Jones, a black Republican political canvasser in Los Angeles County, to the Globe on Tuesday. “Getting into the reasons why many won’t vote Republican would take a small book to accurately explain, but generally, like most of the rest of the U.S., we vote Democratic.
“And Elder isn’t really inspiring people to switch. Yes, he’s black, but many view him as a black Rush Limbaugh or someone like that, and that doesn’t win people over. He’s winning, which is fantastic, but he’ll need to connect with black communities to show he has more support with us. A lot of middle-class African-Americans are actually on the fence on a lot of things, so going to those neighborhoods in Southern California would be a good place to start to drum up more support.”
“But you know some people, if he wins, will bring this up. That he won with barely any black support. And that needs to be mitigated. If he can get up to 10% among black voters next month, I think that’s a good figure to quiet any naysayers, saying he doubled the amount of African-Americans voting for a black GOP candidate.”
An added edge for Elder, Jenner
However, even without widespread African-American support, recall candidates are making the Democratic Party on edge in California, with Elder’s support giving a unique fear among them.
“Democrats don’t want Elder by and large,” added Schultz. “First off, many view him as a ‘loud mouth’ conservative radio host with no prior political experience. But second, the thing that is generally only spoken quietly in some circles, is a worry that Elder represents conservatives away from the usual light. During the Trump years, many portrayed those to the right as having racist views. Ask any Trump supporter, and they’ll likely tell you that this happened to them, or at least they noticed it going on in the media.”
“Democrats have already been scared about losing the Governorship in California because it would give the state and national GOP good footing to go on in 2022 and 2024, as well as show that conservatism isn’t dead in California and that the GOP can still win big races there. And with the new Emerson data, they’re worried about losing the majority of Latinos to voting Republican in the future. At the very least, no matter the outcome, they know they’re losing someone who once was a rising star in the Democratic Party, Gavin Newsom.”
“But if Elder gets in, he’ll just be proof that the party is as open-minded as the Democrats when it comes to choosing higher-office candidates, with the racial argument going away by a large degree. Honestly, it can work with Jenner too and transgenderism, but Elder currently has a much better chance at winning.”
“A lot of Californians really don’t understand just how big of an impact that the first black Governor of California being a Republican can be. There are currently no black Governors in the U.S., not since Deval Patrick left office in Massachusetts in 2015. California had a Latino Governor in the 1870’s, Romualdo Pacheco, also a Republican by the way, but that’s been it. Having a Republican be Governor of California is a statement to the rest of the country. Having the first black Governor of California and the only black Governor in the entire country be a Republican? The Democratic Party would not know how to respond to that.”